Hundreds come to view original Treaty

A lot of new eyes were on a very old document when Wellingtonians turned out to see the Treaty on Waitangi Day.

About 400 people visited the National Archives yesterday to gaze upon the country's founding document 173 years after it was signed.

Archives spokeswoman Christine Seymour said it was pleasing to have so many people, including youngsters, look at the Treaty.

"We had a really good day. There was a lot of family groups that went along, and a number of primary school kids."

The turnout was more than double the number of people who visited the Treaty on Waitangi Day last year, she said.

"There seems to be a resurgence of interest in the Treaty and what it means. It really does have meaning to New Zealanders."

On permanent display, the nine pages of the Treaty are kept air-conditioned and humidity-controlled in the Archives' Constitution Room.

The room is also kept dark, as the iron-based ink used in the documents can be damaged by light.

Connie Toia, seeing the Treaty for the first time, said it was important for Kiwis to see the ageing paperwork, "to get a sense of the founding of the . . . country".

"It gives a sense of the importance of the day in our history, regardless of what's going on in contemporary New Zealand."

Ollie and Sophie Badrick, 12 and 10, were more interested in the physical appearance of the tattered Treaty, which at one time in its past had been gnawed upon.

"On the Treaty, a rat had eaten most of it," Sophie said, adding that she had seen tiny teeth marks on the edges of the document.

Vernon Wybrow, manager of Archives' research services, confirmed that a rodent was indeed to blame for the Treaty's ragged state. "When it was stored in the 19th century some rats did get to it."

On February 6, 1840, 43 Northland chiefs signed the treaty in Waitangi. More than 500 Maori chiefs also signed it as it was taken around the country in the following eight months.

The Dominion Post